With high profile firings and falling sales over the past twelve months, the storied house of Versace has been under something of a dark cloud. Indeed, it seemed that Donatella Versace and her design team were thinking decidedly dark for A/W 2010 - in direct contrast to the white silk-swathed backdrop to their last womenswear presentation, the menswear was presented in a blacked-out cavern, lasers bouncing off the walls and circuit-board patterns traced in gleaming LEDs. Yes, we were in for a dose of Donatella's high-voltage hi-tech. The intention was obviously brave new futurism (with a capital F). - from shellacked, helmet-like hair to shiny shiny multistrapped patent leather boots, Donatella was dressing a new generation of human, Kraftwerk's Man Machine a la mode. Maybe she was caught up with the idea of 2010, but for winter Versace are proposing a patchworked and plasticised cyborg vision, complete with Star Trek visor sunglasses and streamlined, minimal tailoring. Of course, Versace's menswear right-hand Alexandre Plokhov was known for these kind of shenanigans at his Cloak label - even that pomaded hair is reminiscent of his final show in 2007 - thus we had more of his harsh, geometric tailoring with sharp shoulders, legging-tight trousers and straps, seams and fastenings galore. The problem with trying to predict the future is that, so often it can immediately look old-hat. We glance back at Cardin and Courreges' moon-dwelling model-cum-cosmonauts with derision - Versace's vision managed to look passe before it had even begun. It was just too much - too much leather, too many zips, too too much heavy metal. Airport security will have a field-day with those leather leggings with triple-zipped thighs, never mind the multi-studded bombers and chain-mail singlets. That said, there was craft within the chaos. Gianni Versace was always a technician, and indeed some of the workmanship within these clothes was jaw-dropping. Leather was fettered into strips, overlapped and then fastened back together with metal rivets; studs pimpled the surface of calfskin jackets until they resembled ostrich hide, then seemingly broke through as if growing from within; and there was something else clever with shredded nappa and filigree shards of metal that ended up resembling a pair of tinfoil-wrapped porcupines wrestling on the model's shoulders. At the same time, for a house known for inventive prints, we expected better than luridly-coloured rave safe swirls sliced into billowing shirts and skinny long-sleeved t-shirts. Think Junior Gaultier mixed with a late-eighties Acid House video and you're halfway there. Granted, it was a strong and decisive statement - but did it feel right for today - or indeed for anytime in the near future? No. The overriding impression was that this overwrought, overworked and underthought collection was a hideous misstep, especially galling for a house which is already treading on commercial eggshells.
The problem with trying to predict the future is that, so often it can immediately look old-hat.